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Bamiyan Citizens March with Light and Hope to Protest against Karzai’s Neglect

Basir Ahang
Sunday 15 April 2012

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Translated by: Zafar Shayan

On Wednesday in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan witnessed a demonstration of brilliance by Bamiyan citizens. Hundreds marched together over the 157 kilometers from Bamiyan to Kabul in a unified outcry against injustice and discrimination in their Province. With a unique sign of visionary hope, Bamiyan citizens carried lit kerosene lamps as a sign to President Obama, the United States and the United Nations.

“The United Nations and United States have lost their way in Afghanistan”, are the cries from Bamiyan civic movement leaders and activists. “This is why we march together with our kerosene lamps burning brightly! To bring a message to the world. Please wake up and see the light because our people are in serious trouble!”
These Bamiyan citizens bring their message of light and call for help to the US and the UN as there is still much work to be done to corrupt rule in Afghanistan.

From right to left: Martyr Jawad Zuhak and Hazara photographer Najibullah Mosafir

Two years have passed since Bamiyan civic activists started their first peaceful protests in the city. The reasons for their protests were discrimination, injustice and neglect of their Province by the Afghanistan government. Discrimination and injustice continues to exist. In the beginning, the protest was led by Jawad Zuhak, the head of Bamiyan Provincial Council.

Bamiyan citizens started their civil protest across from the Parliament’s building. They expected the Parliament and Sena members to join them as representatives of the people and demand the government to stop the discrimination, injustice and neglect against Bamiyan people.
Some representatives of Parliament said they appreciated such civil movement and declared, “We hope to be witnesses of such protests in different parts of Afghanistan.” Parliament representatives emphasized they have had no intention of hurting or disrespect to problems of Bamiyan people.

Bamiyan citizens asked the representatives of Parliament to give the kerosene lamps to the US Embassy so they will understand that there is no electricity yet in Bamiyan. “We want the United Nations and US to know that of millions of dollars given to help Afghanistan, nothing has been done to help the suffering of the Bamiyan people! We need electricity and clean water to operate schools, a medical clinic and homes!” The civic leaders and citizens have been ignored long enough. Their message must reach out to those willing to help.
As a part of this protest, a commanding resolution has been requested to begin parallel development. There is hope that the law will eliminate all discrimination and injustice, and include participation of all Afghan community leaders. Also included is a request to restrain distrust between government and people. It is imperative the government of Afghanistan clearly state all of its policies and plans before foreign forces have exited the country.

The Continual Pain of Bamiyani Region

Bamiyan is located in central part of Afghanistan. It is a cultural capital as well. During the height of Afghanistan’s growth, prominent, wealthy cultures and peace loving religions thrived together in this region. But because this province has been the home of Hazara people, an ominous cloud of hatred and mistreatment has come to the countryside. The timeline of history now shows a harsh road of oppression by tribal oriented governors leaving the Hazara people deprived and enslaved without room for improvement.
It does not seem such a long time ago that within the pulsating heart of Bamiyan existed the glorious tall statues of Buddha. They were the most beautiful and magnificent statues which held so much cultural and historical symbolism for Bamiyan citizens and the Hazara People. These statues stood tall with so much spiritual meaning and they embraced the people through time with the truths from teachings of their beloved Buddha. Sadly, men of the Taliban destroyed this sacred place during their occupation of Bamiyan’s "Sun shining region". The Taliban barbarically massacred thousands of men, women and children in the region and destroyed their homes just for being Hazaras.
Eleven years after the downfall of the brutal Taliban regime and the rising of new government in Afghanistan, there has been no change in the oppression of the Bamiyan region. Many families are still without a stable roof over their heads. Remaining pieces of the destroyed statues of Buddha are lovingly relished as hundreds of families live in the most difficult of situations. They live inside of dark caves like prehistoric clans. These caves were originally fashioned by ancestors for the purpose of solitude and prayer. Now they sustain them not only their prayers but in their entire way of life. Imagine life in a cave in the midst of a brutal winter. While Karzai and his parliament rest in warm homes, hundreds must resort to sleeping in caves as shelter.
When the Bamiyan citizens arrive in Kabul with their kerosene lamps, they peacefully urge that the discrimination and systematic oppression by the government be stopped immediately. These neglected citizens know that they are most loyal and humble citizens of Afghanistan. When your country is in danger of foreign occupation or unknown rules, the Bamiyans are the primary Afghan patriots defending the independence of their country.

Upon arrival to Kabul, there was yet again the repeat of conflict between Parliament and the Financial Ministry of Karzai’s government regarding the Developmental Budget of 1391/2012. As in past years, this budget has ignored central and northern Provinces while allocating funds for development and construction to the Pashton Provinces. This partiality toward specific provinces by Karzai’s government is criticized by many well-known personalities and Afghan community leaders. Parliament has indeed rejected Karzai’s plan for a second time, but his cronies will continue to pressure Parliament, or worse pay them with aid money, to vote for his highly discriminatory plan.

In this current shaky situation, the Bamiyan people know it is of vital importance to maintain the given "achievements of ten years" post-Taliban. They know that the only way to maintain these achievements and move toward a stable and developing Afghanistan is demanding elimination of discrimination, injustice and oppression.
Despite their determination to be model citizens, Bamiyan civic leaders know that peaceful movements and protests may create a spark of danger to peaceful negotiations with Parliament. The Afghanistan government is dancing to its own happy tune while the people of Bamiyan have been struggling to find one good string for their aging rubab. While their sincerest hopes are to open the blind eyes and deaf ears of neglectful Kabul governors, there is an ever present fear that a Bamiyan citizen who is suffering, or has lost a loved one due to Karzai’s neglect, will secretly plan an attack which harms innocent people.

History of Civic Movements in Bamiyan

Through this history of hell in Afghanistan, the Taliban were consumed with murder, suicide attacks, treason and narcotics, while the survival of its good people was based on a strategy of hard work and hopes for a return to freedom. Instead of picking up guns and retaliative methods of attack, the Bamiyan people used their pens and symbolic protests. A true sign of wisdom amidst the thunder of arguing voices seeking power.

Jawad Zuhak, Bamiyan’s leading civic activist, was murdered for writing against those suffering from neglect from Karzai’s government. Karzai has focused on the areas of his choosing instead of an equitable rebuilding plan. In a symbolic protest, Zuhak’s mobilized his people to pave the road with mud. After the protest, they presented letters of appreciation to the donkeys used for the purpose of holding water for the people. Bamiyan citizens humbly joked that these donkeys have helped the people more than any government official.

When the electricity was turned off to the region, another civic protest was prepared. The protesters hung a large kerosene lamp in the "Martyred Mazari’s" Field and sent another kerosene lamp as a gift to Esmaeil Khan, Karzai’s minister of Ministry of Water and Energy.

Serious Life-threatening Problems

Bamiyan citizens are suffering from many problems. Poor roads, lack of medical health and emergency service centers, no electricity, poverty, unemployment and vagrancy. All of these have made a painful situation in this province. In winters, the snowy roads through the mountains to the city are closed for travel shutting off what little flow of supplies from compassionate countrymen to care for the people of the region. With severe drops of the temperature to below zero degrees, something as simple as a cold can cause death for the Bamiyan people.

In education aspect, many schools do not have buildings and the students are obliged to come under a blazing summer sun for study to achieve their intended future. They study to change tomorrow’s situation, give hand their patriots, but because of the difference of their physical faces from others, even they are deprived of public stationeries.

The most painful thing is the absence of a proper house in which to live. Hundreds of families are still living inside caves. Most of them are those whom their houses were destroyed during the murdering forces of Taliban occupation. Life of cavemen is painful for every human being. The majority of the children born in a cave die. Physical and mental problems are increasing without proper medical assistance. In the winter, because the cold weather forces them inside the caves away from the biting cold and winds, all of them cook their food by collier and wood inside the caves. There is no way for proper exhaust and air exchange. This causes most of the cave dwellers to be stricken with sicknesses.

If you are reading this, please take note to the outcry from the good Bamiyan people. The citizens of Bamiyan region are suffering while the United Nations contributes millions of dollars to Afghanistan. A decade has passed and this money has been poorly allocated and misused. Karzai’s government continues to distribute hundreds of thousands to his own secret people for his own agenda. This is Aid money that is supposed to be used for rebuilding the country of Afghanistan.

How can the Bamiyan people hope for a better tomorrow in a country with such corruption and discrimination? It is a violation to all that is good and true to allow a Bamiyani who loves his country go to his death because of cold weather and hunger when a so called president of his country gives his priority to releasing and providing for Pakistani suicide attackers. Karzai pays who will join his self-righteous cause and they begin assassinating innocent Afghan people.

If the United States, the United Nations and other good people of the world do not see the light from the kerosene lamps of the Bamiyan people, there is no doubt the peaceful movements of the suffering will heighten into conflict. It will only take a few children to die because of government neglect before the Afghan people unite to overturn a government that has turned its back on its people.

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